This book is an affirmation that all of the things I have experienced as a woman are not a figment of my imagination, but very real life experiences. Rebecca Solint is author of 20 books at the time I am writing this. Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays that deals with the female experience. It is a short read at only a 154 pages and I think it should be mandatory reading for all men and women alike.
Her first essay, for which the book gets its namesake is titled “Men Explain Things to Me”. It talks about mansplaining a term that became popular after this essay was originally published in 2008. She argues that “the confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered.” I know this is true because every woman I have talked to about it has their own stories to contribute. Ms. Solint goes on to argue that, “It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that it is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
She draws a correlation that violence is another way used to silence people and exert control over them. She asserts that “violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” When we look at the pattern of violence, we cannot deny that it is mostly by men. The women are often times not viewed as credible when they go and report these crimes, furthermore men are rarely punished for these crimes, which shows what value the world places on a women’s credibility and safety. Not much. Solint says we cannot look at these as isolated events, but rather a pattern that is a human right’s issue. The perpetrators first line of defense is silence and second they seek to discredit the victims character. “The implication that women as a category are unreliable and that false rape charges are the real issue is used to silence individual women and to avoid discussing sexual violence, and to make men out as the principle victims.”
When I have tried to talk to men about this topic, I find that many get very defensive very quickly. It is important that they realize that, “Sure #NotAllMen are misogynist and rapists. That’s not the point. The point is that #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are.” If they are not willing to have a dialogue about it or become aware of the problem then we cannot begin to fix it.
When people wonder why I get so angry, I wonder why they aren’t. When one out of six women is raped in this country, when a women is beaten every 9 seconds and when it is the number one cause of injury to women, I think the natural reaction is to get enraged. These are not isolated incidents.
Solnit leaves me on a hopeful note, when she says “What doesn’t go back in the jar or the box are ideas. And revolutions are, most of all, made up of ideas. You can whittle away at reproductive rights, as conservatives have in most states of the union, but you can’t convince the majority of women that they should have no right to control their own bodies. Practical changes follow upon changes of the heart and mind. Sometimes legal, political, economic, environmental changes follow upon those changes, though not always, for where power rests matters.” It is time for humanity to say we are not okay with this. We need to put women in positions of leadership where they can influence policy, we need to listen to women when they talk about these things rather than get defensive, and we need to recognize this pattern in our culture.
I do not have enough a large enough vocabulary for all of the accolades this collections of essays deserves. Please go out and buy this book that is both funny, informative and thought provoking. I also recommend buying it for the men in your life as it is much harder to interrupt a book than you.